My language learning sequence - help

Xie Z.A.   Thu Jul 26, 2007 4:42 pm GMT
Hi there, I'm a new, Chinese user aspiring to learn several languages for fun. Namely, I'm asking which languages I should learn first to "fill" my list of 6 languages to be learnt - I guess this may actually be the maximum.

Since I'm not actually a native Mandarin speaker, I'd treat Mandarin as a semi-foreign language. I've learnt English for some years, and am dealing with German now. I've also settled on French as the 4th. My main linguistic interest lies in Europe, and Japanese is the only Asian candidate.

So, what about the remaining <<two>>? Though I'm Chinese, I'm hesitating about Japanese, primarily because I may easily mess things up. Also, since Japanese is not related to Eu. languages and not really very similar to Chinese, I may have to spend a lot of time on it before I can move on...

The Eu. candidates include:
Spanish - a lot of learning materials, Romance
Italian - few materials, Romance
Russian - some materials, Slavic
Portuguese - few materials, Romance

On my list, Spanish would be the "most possible", because the large amount of materials I can get made it the easiest to be the 5th. If I could learn more, I'd consider others later; if I couldn't, then I can just stop at 6 or even 4/5. Except linguist affinity, Japanese beats all Eu. options in terms of easiness (tons of materials) and popularity, but I'm not very into it... even though it should be the "easiest" to practice due to the popularity of Japanese cultural products at my place, I'm somehow satisfied with enjoying them with translations and subtitles.

At my place, there are even less materials for other Eu. languages, but I'm rather open about those. I haven't made any choices except French, so I'd also welcome opinions about other choices... my main concerns are 1) academic importance and the availability of good language materials in the target language (so I chose German and French already) 2) easiness vis-a-vis learning materials available, so I consider Russian even though it may be a hard candidate given my background and 3) literary traditions. I have no practical concerns about all these candidates.

Well, frankly, is it easier/advisable to learn (major) Romance languages only to fill the list, given their own similarity?
Guest   Thu Jul 26, 2007 5:11 pm GMT
I don't know why you are trying to fill a list. That sounds like drudgery, not fun. I learn languages because they are practical; they help me communicate with patients and immigrants and allow me to travel with relative ease.

If you are semi-fluent in Mandarin, you should master Mandarin. Then I'd choose French, Spanish, German, Russian and Japanese. Russian will help you with Slavic languages, of course. Those with your native language will give you SEVEN. Pressed for time? Cut out Japanese and German.
K.T.   Thu Jul 26, 2007 5:13 pm GMT
Actually, Japanese should be a piece of cake if you speak Cantonese and some Mandarin. You won't have the Kanji wall.
James   Thu Jul 26, 2007 5:50 pm GMT
I agree with K.T. Go for Japanese. You'll not only have the meaning for most of the Kanji, but have an easier time with the ON readings. (The KUN readings are a different matter.)

Also, a good deal of vocabulary was borrowed from Chinese, and lately from English, both of which you know.

Although the grammar of Japanese is different from Chinese (and not quite as "simple"), it is still more straightforward than most European languages. And the pronunciation is very simple and straightforward. You could learn romaji--and both kana--in a very short time and be understood. (Which cannot be said so readily for those learning Chinese!)

Since you're in Asia, it's a logical choice. (By the way: if you master Japanese, Korean should not be difficult. The grammar is almost the same, and Korean also borrowed a ton of vocabulary from Chinese. And hangul, the alphabet, is pretty regular.)
Xie Z.A.   Fri Jul 27, 2007 1:34 am GMT
The list is about long-term planning, but not a must. Actually, I learnt kana before and still remember the script and the pronunciation, except the pitches. I did "invest" some time and money in Japanese, but did not continue owing to the recent planning.

In terms of similarity (grammar or vocab), then Chinese and Japanese, English and German and French and (possibly) Spanish would be 3 "pairs". Then, for the sake of "easiness", I'd have to hold a Slavic one at the moment. Actually, I'm not quite intimidated by grammar difficulties, because I can and would solve it through efficient, enjoyable methods I would learn from my experiences and other learners. If German is regarded as one the most difficult in Europe... well, I'm already on the half-way of it, and I've got used to "difficulties", if the concepts are really difficult.

I hold Japanese for so long, because a lot of things, other than the script(s), seem to be so radically different from what I see in Chinese. Although I believe in self-learning and believe proficiency is possible through my own efforts.... I've been <<haunted>> by the facts that I couldn't get a good hang of it after a class course. I hate to admit, but I did; and it also proved I've never been very into Japanese. That I have had a small investment (money and time) in Japanese without concrete results have been constantly putting me off...
K. T.   Fri Jul 27, 2007 2:46 am GMT
Sometimes I suspect that students have cultural blocks that keep them from learning certain languages. I wonder if this could be true in your case judging from your word choice "I couldn't get the hang of it."
Rodrigo (COL)   Fri Jul 27, 2007 11:13 pm GMT
I would recommend Spanish because it would be a nice break from the other languages which have complicated vowels and dipthongs. Also, there are tons of Spanish literature and learning material. Even though you're learning for fun, a Chinese person who speaks Spanish will have much more opportunities in life. Besides, Spanish will allow you to travel across Latin America and Spain and with some basic Portuguese, Brazilians will understand you.